As reported in a previous article by Examiner, Autism is a neurological and developmental disability that can lead to psychosis in the most severe cases in early adulthood, if not treated properly in childhood.
Autism is one of the most widespread, misunderstood and socially scorned disabilities. Autistic children are developmentally, physically, emotionally and socially disabled.
Many of the visibly Autistic cannot even make eye contact, which people often find offensive. They are shunned and bullied in public schools, where the 'least restrictive environment' often puts them at more risk, not less.
What the public does know, however, is that the word 'Autism' is usually immediately followed by the word, 'spectrum,' because Autism spans an enormous range of disabilities and disorders, from the nearly invisible and totally manageable, to the mentally disordered and potentially life-threatening, but it never needs to get that far.
Examiner has reported on the imperative for better wrap-around services for children with special needs.
Huffington Post writer Catherine Pearson reported yesterday:
‘From 2011 to 2012, 1 in 50 school-age children had a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder according to their parents -- up from 1 in 86 in 2007.'
‘[This] study provides growing evidence that [the] U.S. is underestimating the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder," said Michael Rosanoff from the non-profit organization Autism Speaks, in an e-mail to HuffPost.
The new figures came from the 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Children's Health, a national telephone survey conducted by the CDC.
In this most recent survey, parents reported that 2 percent of 6- to 17-year-olds had a diagnosis for an autism spectrum disorder, which is higher than the 2007 estimate of 1.16 percent.
Overall, the increase was greater for boys than for girls, and greater among 14-to-17-year-olds than among younger children.
The report's authors largely attribute the change to doctors identifying the disorder more often now than they did just a few years earlier. "Much of the prevalence increase from 2007 to 2011 [to] 2012 for school-aged children was the result of diagnoses of children with previously unrecognized ASD," they wrote.
Last year, the CDC revised its go-to estimate of the prevalence of autism in the U.S., saying it now affects 1 in 88 children, up from 1 in 150 in 2002.
That is the estimate cited most widely by health care providers and public health officials when quantifying the prevalence of Autism in the U.S., and comes from the CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, which collected data in 2008.
Rosanoff believes the new parental-report data suggests that the "1 in 88" figure is low.
Because Autism Spectrum Disorders are a group of developmental disorders characterized by social, communication and behavioral challenges, there are no biological tests for Autism.
Researchers do not know its cause, although a rapidly growing body of scientific research suggests it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
‘Getting a clearer picture of autism's true prevalence will help researchers set a benchmark that allows them to better understand if the disorder is simply being identified more by doctors; if actual risk has increased -- or both,” said Tristam Smith, a professor of neuro-developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
‘We need to double-down on our efforts to get a full picture of what's going on," he argued. "I think it's very critical for understanding where to look for the etiology or etiologies of autism.
‘It's also critical in service delivery.’
A lengthy December 2012 report by a federal advisory committee that oversees autism research found that there are significant gaps in how much services are studied as well as their availability.
"It's an important study," Smith concluded. "It definitely adds to the picture, but it also adds to the mystery of what's going on."